The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Henry D. Mitchell, 22, of Elm Springs, Arkansas, killed during World War II, was accounted for Aug. 3, 2021.
In July 1944, Mitchell was assigned to the 48th Fighter Squadron, 14th Fighter Group, 15th Air Force in the European Theater. On July 8, he was piloting a P-38 Lightning fighter on a mission outside of Vienna, Austria. As his squadron was returning from the target, they encountered enemy aircraft. After combat, Mitchell responded he was OK about 10-15 kilometers northeast of Vienna, but was never heard from or seen again. Neither the Red Cross nor German forces reported him as a prisoner of war. With no evidence that Mitchell had survived his disappearance, the War Department issued an administrative Finding of Death on July 9, 1945.
Following the end of the war, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) was tasked with investigating and recovering missing American personnel in Europe. However, Mitchell’s circumstances of loss behind enemy lines precluded any possibility of recovery at the time. Search opportunities in the area did not improve after the war, when Austria was divided into four occupation zones. Eastern Austria, which included the area surrounding Vienna, was in the Soviet Zone of Occupation.
Although the AGRC did not have access to the area, they did conduct research into the captured German records detailing known shoot-downs of American aircraft. German records reported the crash of a P-38 Lightning near Waldegg, Austria, on July 8, 1944, and indicated the fate of the pilot as unknown. Mitchell was declared non-recoverable on Dec. 11, 1953.
In the summer of 2013, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), a predecessor of DPAA, sent an investigation mission to the reported crash site near Waldegg. The investigation found evidence that possibly linked the site with Mitchell’s P-38. It took several years before DPAA was given permission to excavate the site. In spring of 2021, a recovery team found possible evidence which was subsequently sent to the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for scientific analysis.
To identify Mitchell’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as material and circumstantial evidence.
Mitchell’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at Epinal American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Dinoze, France, along with the others still missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Mitchell will be buried in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The date has yet to be determined.
For family and funeral information, contact the Army Casualty Office at (800) 892-2490.
DPAA is grateful to the Austrian government and Mr. Robert Schmid, the owner of the land on which Mitchell’s crash site was found, for their assistance in this mission.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil, find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or https://www.linkedin.com/company/defense-pow-mia-accounting-agency.
Mitchell’s personnel profile can be viewed at https://dpaa-mil.sites.crmforce.mil/dpaaProfile?id=a0Jt000001nzPOxEAM.